Much research has been done on the positive and negative effects that extensive hours of childcare may have on children. When mothers began entering the labor force in large numbers in the 1960s, experts in child development expressed concern about the effect of mothers' absences on the emotional relationship between children and parents. Attachment, the emotional bond that begins early in life, is considered to have a critical influence on a child's social, emotional, and cognitive development. Most experts agree that children need a stable and continuous relationship with a sensitive and responsive caregiver in order to develop a secure emotional attachment.
Concern that this bond would be weakened when the child attended day care grew from previous studies of short- and long-term parent-child separations during war time and hospitalizations. Some researchers are concerned that children with extensive nonparental care in their first year of life may be negatively affected by the quality of the care (Shonkoff and Phillips 2000). Other research has examined the effect of day care on children's social development. Children enrolled in childcare typically have more experience interacting with peers than children raised at home, creating both positive and negative results. These children typically show greater independence, self-confidence, and social adeptness, but they may also show evidence of greater aggression and noncompliance to adult requests (Booth 1992). The cultural context of childcare may have a significant influence on children. For example, research has shown significant differences in the effects of childcare on children living in the United States as compared to children living in Sweden (Lamb et al. 1992).
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